Thermodynamic analysis of multivalent binding of functionalized nanoparticles to membrane surface reveals the importance of membrane entropy and nanoparticle entropy in adhesion of flexible nanoparticles

Soft Matter. 2019 Dec 7;15(45):9271-9286. doi: 10.1039/c9sm01653h. Epub 2019 Oct 31.


We present a quantitative model for multivalent binding of ligand-coated flexible polymeric nanoparticles (NPs) to a flexible membrane expressing receptors. The model is developed using a multiscale computational framework by coupling a continuum field model for the cell membrane with a coarse-grained model for the polymeric NPs. The NP is modeled as a self-avoiding bead-spring polymer chain, and the cell membrane is modeled as a triangulated surface using the dynamically triangulated Monte Carlo method. The nanoparticle binding affinity to a cell surface is mainly determined by the delicate balance between the enthalpic gain due to the multivalent ligand-receptor binding and the entropic penalties of various components including receptor translation, membrane undulation, and NP conformation. We have developed new methods to compute the free energy of binding, which includes these enthalpy and entropy terms. We show that the multivalent interactions between the flexible NP and the cell surface are subject to entropy-enthalpy compensation. Three different entropy contributions, namely, those due to receptor-ligand translation, NP flexibility, and membrane undulations, are all significant, although the first of these terms is the most dominant. However, both NP flexibility and membrane undulations dictate the receptor-ligand translational entropy making the entropy compensation context-specific, i.e., dependent on whether the NP is rigid or flexible, and on the state of the membrane given by the value of membrane tension or its excess area.